February 22, 2013

Cardinals playing well at right time


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Plattsburgh State men’s basketball coach Tom Curle says his team hasn’t reached its full potential yet.

But he likes what he sees so far.

“I feel we’re peaking at the right time, even though we could still be playing better,” he said. “We are playing our best basketball of the season right now.

“This is the most improved team over the course of a season that I’ve ever coached.”

The Cardinals (18-7, 14-4), are the second seed in the SUNY Athletic Conference Tournament and, following a bye in the first round, will take part in this weekend’s final four being held at top-seeded Cortland.

Plattsburgh will tangle with third-seeded Geneseo (17-9, 12-6) in tonight’s 6 p.m. semifinal, followed by Cortland (21-5, 15-3) against fourth-seeded Oswego (19-7, 11-7).

The tournament championship game is set for 4 p.m. on Saturday.

The Cardinals have won 11 of their last 13 games, including five in a row at home to end the regular season.

Shamoy McIntosh is the only active player on the Plattsburgh roster averaging in double figures at 12.2 points a game. Jordan Moody is next at 9.5.

Point guard Chris Manning leads the team in assists (5.9) and steals (3.9), which leads all of Division III.

Getting key contributions off the bench has also helped the Cardinals achieve a turnaround season from a year ago.

“I think the players are highly confident,” Curle said. “A lot of that is due to the leadership we’re getting from the players. Players like Chris Manning are going to instill some confidence.”

Curle, however, is concerned with the team’s rebounding.

Junior forward John Perez, who was recently lost for the season with a leg injury, was the second-leading scorer on the team.

But where the Cardinals miss Perez the most is on the boards, where the crafty 6-foot-3 standout led the team in rebounding.

“Absolutely, that’s a big concern not having John in the lineup,” Curle said. “We have to get the rebounds at some point or it’s going to catch up with us — we have to correct what we’re not doing.

“We have to get gang rebounding, especially from our guards. Our guards are athletic, and they should be getting the long rebounds.”

Geneseo was near the top of the conference standings with Cortland most of the way before settling for third place.

The Knights and Cardinals met twice during the regular season.

Geneseo recorded a 66-64 home victory on Jan. 11, and Plattsburgh then posted an 84-62 decision late in the regular season on Feb. 9 at Memorial Hall during its five-game winning streak.

“They were missing their point guard, (Thomas) Decker, the second time we played them and he’s back now,” Curle said.

The Knights advanced to tonight’s game with a solid 98-80 home win over No. 6 seed New Paltz in the quarterfinals Tuesday.

Geneseo shot an incredible 74 percent (27-of-50) from the field, which is the highest percentage by any team in a game in all of Division III this season.

“They can shoot it if they get it going,” Curle said. “They are a very good team.

“The first two times we played them, we played almost exclusively a zone. But we have to be real disciplined with our slides and make sure our rotations are where they should be.

“If we follow the ball too much, instead of being disciplined, they are going to get some easy layups.”

Gordon Lyons (13.9) and Connor Fedge (13.8) are the leading scorers for the Knights, who rely on a more balanced attack like the Cardinals do.

No. 4 seed Oswego, meanwhile, advanced to the semifinals with Tuesday’s 78-66 home win over No. 5 seed Brockport. That will get the Lakers a chance against the top-seeded Red Dragons.